Consequences of drugs, knives and gangs hits home to students following powerful school workshops

Last week nearly 1000 pupils at secondary schools in south Bristol learned first-hand about the destruction and misery that drugs, gangs and knives can have on your life. Pupils from Ashton Park Secondary School, The Merchants Academy and Bedminster Down Secondary School took part in a series of unique and powerful workshops delivered by Paul Hannaford, an ex-offender and drug addict who now uses his own experiences to warn young people of the dangers of following the same path that he did. In his workshops, Paul talks candidly about his life, beginning with his childhood growing up in east London. A promising football player, Paul had hopes of signing for West Ham United, but at the age of 11, he tried his first cannabis joint. He was expelled from school and became involved in gangs, criminality and regularly carried knives. He ended up as a heroin and crack cocaine addict, on a merry-go round of offending, going in and out of prison. Eventually, after being released from prison and hospital for the umpteenth time, Paul decided that he didn’t want to carry on with this life. He went into rehab in Weston-super-Mare and Paul has now been clean for 11 years. However Paul still lives with the physical scars and injuries caused by his drug addictions. He has to take medication for the rest of his life because of the blood clots left in his body – without the medication he would almost certainly die. He has to dress the wounds on his legs daily, which are hugely swollen and bleed constantly, due to infections picked up from injecting drugs. Avon and Somerset Police’s Youth Strategy Officer PC Kris Wither said: “These workshops in schools are part of our efforts to divert young people away from crime. Although most people understand that the police deal with crime once it’s happened, or with enforcing the law, many people don’t realise that we also work hard to prevent crime from being committed in the first place. “Paul’s workshops do not glamourise his past life. The criminality, violence and drug addiction he lived through is not sugar coated – he tells it like it is and the kids listen. They see the state of his legs and the pain and discomfort he still lives with despite being clean for over a decade.

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